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Chuck Pagano Successfully Recruits Andre Johnson, Again

Intro: When the 2015 free agency period began, Chuck Pagano was fresh off a USO Tour and ready to recruit one player he pursued some 16 years ago.





INDIANAPOLIS – Back in 1999, Chuck Pagano's job was not to let him get away.

Him was Andre Johnson, who played his high school football less than six miles away from the University of Miami campus, where Pagano coached.

Johnson, a Parade All-American at Miami Senior High School, made Pagano one happy coach when he committed to the 'U.'

More than a decade and a half later, the now 33-year old Johnson was again listening to recruiting pitches from Pagano.

A chance to recruit Johnson one more time was a surprise to Pagano, but served as another reminder of how life can work in the NFL.

During Johnson's free agency visit to Indianapolis, Pagano was able to catch up with the man he coached at Miami and the wide receiver's uncle.

"It's extremely exciting," Pagano said of reuniting with Johnson.

"No. 1, we're getting a really good football player, obviously. Having the relationship that I have with him, going all the way back to high school, recruiting him out of Miami High, knowing his family, knowing the type of man he is, the type of character he has, all that stuff comes into play. It's really cool for us to be back together again."

When the Colts decided not to re-sign Reggie Wayne prior to the start of free agency, the void at the receiver position could have included a pre-requisite for another veteran to join the fold.

It wasn't a requirement, but there's no question that adding someone with the resume of Johnson was a quality that was definitely admired.

Johnson's play still showed Pagano a productive receiver who hasn't seen a major regression in his numbers.

"You still see a guy who is more than capable of stretching the defense, certainly somebody who our opponent can't just line up and say, 'Don't worry about Andre Johnson.'" Pagano said.

"If they choose to double (T.Y. Hilton) and take him out of the game, you have another guy on the other side, along with the rest of the guys on the roster who can still stretch the defense. He's a big, possession type guy. He makes contested catches in traffic. He's got a big catch radius, a big body. Those guys are hard to defend."

The decision to part ways with Wayne is part of the business that Pagano does not enjoy.

In losing Wayne, Pagano wanted to find someone with similar characteristics and in doing so, another Miami product was about to call Indy home.

"I don't know if you can ever replace 87, matter of fact I know you can't replace guys like that, so you try to find somebody that can become like that guy," Pagano said.

"That mentor, that leader in that room, that brings that veteran presence, veteran leadership into that room to help the young guys. TY (Hilton) naturally going into his fourth year is going to have to assume some of that stuff. He's got to grow into that role. Obviously having a guy like Andre that's played 12 years is going to be a huge help as far as that's concerned."

Colts coaches and players with a University of Miami connection: Coach Chuck Pagano, Coach Rob Chudzinski, Andre Johnson and Frank Gore.

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